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What comes after shots? Drifts!
So you've practiced all the shots and can hit them from anywhere on the table. Now what?
Mastering the shots is just the first step. The second is to be able to hit these shots off of a moving puck. To break a stubborn defense, a certain amount of movement is necessary. In general, the more movement the better as long as it does not greatly affect accuracy. One of the reasons that movement is good is because for every position the puck might be struck from, there is an ideal starting defensive position. This "ideal" position may vary depending on whether the attacker is left or right handed, what the attackers tendencies are as well as what the defenders tendencies are. The puck location at the moment of attack often limits what the offense can do, helping to determine the correct defensive position.
Assuming that for each puck position there is an ideal defensive position, then we can also assume that every other spot is not ideal and can therefore be exploited more easily. A moving puck increases the chance that the defense will not be in the ideal starting location when the scoring strike is applied. In fact, if the defense is too far out of position some shots will be automatic.
When on offense it is the players' job to weigh the consequences of various drifts, speeds, releases and striking positions. How much the defense opens up versus any affect on accuracy is important to determine. Using drifts for the sake of using drifts is incorrect.
Drifts have several potential goals. Achieving some of them can lead to easy scores:
A drift may be used to get the defense in the wrong defending spot at the moment of attack.
A drift may be used to get the defense to move incorrectly before, during or after the puck is struck.
A drift may be used to get the defense to "freeze."
Drifts may be used to build up possession time.
A drift may be used to increase the chances that a blocked shot will return to the offense.
Drifts may and should be used to vary the timing and attack zones of the offense.
A drift may be used to induce a charge from the defense.
It is important to practice as many shots as possible, off of as many
drifts and speeds as possible, with as many different "timings" as possible.
Remember that on offense you wish to induce the defense to anticipate incorrectly whenever possible. Shots off of moving pucks can help this as long as the attacker understands how the defense will react.
Next month: How to determine how the defense will react to your attacks!
Jesse "the Doctor" Douty